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Central softball team notches first-round district tournament victory
Sarah Kitchen saw it.
The sophomore catcher knew she had a shot and thankfully for the Central softball team, she took it.
Kitchen back-picked Hillboro's Hannah Evans at third base in the top of the fourth inning to end a major rally and propel the Tigers to a 10-5 win in the opening round of the Class 4, District 1 tournament Wednesday evening at the Jackson City Park.
"I saw her take the big leadoff," Kitchen said. "I knew my third baseman would catch it so I went down and I threw it."
Sixth-seeded Central was clinging to a 6-4 lead and third-seeded Hillsboro had runners on second and third with its No. 2 hitter Jordan Hayes at the plate.
On a 2-1 count, Kitchen caught a strike and fired it down to third base to gun down Evans and end the inning.
"A play like that's huge in a close game, a district game," Central ace Kadie Orenstein said. "It got all of us fired up in the dugout and ready to hit on offense too. She's great behind the plate."
Orenstein was plenty good on the mound for the Tigers as well.
The junior pitcher did not have her best stuff, but struck out nine batters while gutting out a seven-inning performance.
"Kadie's always gutsy," Central coach Amy Blattel said. "You put her out there and she's going to give you a good game."
Central gave Orenstein the lead in the opening innings.
The Tigers pounced all over Hillsboro in the first and second.
Central took advantage of three walks, an error, and two hits in the first inning to open the game with a three on the scoreboard.
"It's always a nice cushion to get the runs to back you up," Orenstein said. "You know your team's right there ready to hit. We knew we still had to come out and play hard all the way through the game. We knew we weren't stopping and that's just what we did tonight."
The Tigers didn't stop in the second inning.
Cental again took advantage of a hit batsman, two errors, and a RBI double by Orenstein to grab a 6-0 lead after two.
Hillsboro starter Laney Webb held the Tigers in check in the middle innings while her offense rallied.
The Hawks scored three runs on five hits in the bottom of the third.
Tori Lamb's RBI single followed Tessa Roeder's RBI triple and the Hawks added one more in the third to start a rally.
"Hillsboro is a great team," Blattel said. "They chipped away and chipped away at the lead but we never let down and when it really counted we counterpunched and did well."
Hillsboro tacked on another in the fourth and appeared to be heading for more before the stellar defense of Kitchen.
"We talk all year long that it wasn't a perfect game but we did everything we needed to do to win," Blattel said. "If we made a mistake we came out after that and picked each other up."
Hillsboro made it a 6-5 game in the fifth on a RBI sacrifice fly by Kaycee Gills to set the stage for late-inning drama.
The two teams traded zeroes in the sixth before Central broke it open in the top of the seventh.
Freshman Mariah Taylor led off with a single up the middle and pinch runner Jenna Johnson moved up to second on a wild pitch and third on a sacrifice bunt.
Sophomore Madison Daum followed the sacrifice by reaching second on a Hillsboro error and senior Bailey Kratochvil lined a RBI single off the shortstop's glove to plate Johnson and make it a 7-5 game.
Orenstein made sure the Tigers weren't finished by blasting a two-RBI double into left-center. Two batters later, sophomore Mashanda Reed drove in Orenstein to make it 10-5.
"It's always important to get a leadoff hit," Blattel said of Mariah's single. "If you get a leadoff hit that brings all the momentum to your hitters. It only takes one hit and everything starts. I'm proud of our kids. We hit the ball with two outs tonight and put runs across the plate. They just kept battling and never gave up. We've had games like this all season long. We've been right there at the edge and I was really proud at the way they finished tonight."
Kratochvil, Orenstein and Reed all had two of Central's 11 hits.
Central advances to play second-seeded, host Jackson at 6:15 p.m. today in the second semifinal.
The Indians beat Central 4-3 in the only meeting between the rivals this season.
"This game sets good momentum," Orenstein said. "We're going to be up and we're going to be ready to go and do just what we did today which was come out and hit the ball and play good defense behind each other and come out and hold the rope."
Fourth-seeded Sikeston beat No. 5 Poplar Bluff 8-6 in eight innings in Wednesday's other opening-round game. The Bulldogs play top-seeded Farmington at 4:30 p.m. today in the first semifinal.
WP -- Kadie Orenstein. LP -- Laney Webb. 3B -- Tessa Roeder (H). 2B -- Orenstein (C), Sarah Kitchen (C), Mashanda Reed (C). Multple Hits: Central -- Bailey Kratochvil 2-5, Orenstein 2-4, Reed 2-5. Hillsboro -- Alicia Miller 2-4, Morgan Reynolds 2-4.